One Week at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival

“A slice of pizza is made 100% of pizza, but a slice of pizza does not make 100% of a pizza.” —Daniel Kitson

That quote may not be exactly right, but you get the idea. Well, probably you don’t, you kind of had to be there.

It’s Thursday, April 4, and I’ve been in Melbourne for 7 days. I’ve been to exactly 24 shows containing approximately 70 different comedians. It already feels impossible to in any way encapsulate the experience I’ve had so far, but here goes.

This photo has everything.

I started my MICF journey the night I arrived with Magma! by Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall and Andy Matthews of the podcast Two in the Think Tank. Being possibly the world’s foremost TitTT scholar, I thought I had a pretty good idea what was coming, but the show was so much more than I’d expected—and just as funny as I’d imagined. That joyful surprise is going to be a recurring theme here.

I also had the good fortune to meet Al and Andy prior to the show, and Al gave me a treasure trove of MICF posters from years gone by. At this point I’m already thinking this trip had been everything I’d hoped for and more. And then, after the show, Al was kind enough to hang out and chat over beers about life, shoplifting, and everything. (Andy has a long drive home and had to get going.) We also bumped into an acquaintance of Al’s, and she joined us for a bit to chat about the festival. That welcoming kindness is going to be a recurring theme here.

“I’ve got 99 problems and a solutions-to-problems ratio greater than 1.” —Andy Matthews, Magma!

On day 2, I saw three shows: Bone Dry by Matt Stewart, Fran Solo by Fran Middleton, and Tangara Through My Heart by 5 Servings of Ham. After his show, Matt (who is also one of the three hosts of the podcast Do Go On) invited me join him and his friends at a nearby pub for beers. (See? More kindness.)

On day 3, I saw Do Go On‘s first of four live shows, hung out with Matt again—watching the first half of St. Kilda vs. Essendon in AFL action, and saw three more shows: Mrs. Robinson Crusoe, Space Force, and Keep by Daniel Kitson. I can’t go into every show in detail, so I want to focus on just Space Force for now.

How am I choosing which shows to go to? Great question. A lot of it is a total shot in the dark based on the show’s title or poster. Some of it is comedians I know via podcast listening. Less of it is recommendations from trusted sources. Space Force is one I chose just on the title, and when I walked into the room I knew I’d made a good decision—the Interstellar soundtrack was playing as ambient music while we seated ourselves.

The show starred five women and was a series of sketches orbiting the theme of Australia’s launching a space force following in the small footsteps of Donald Trump’s United States. It was fantastically funny and unexpected and delightfully weird. (See? More surprise.)

Over the next couple of days, I saw another live podcast (Don’t You Know Who I Am?), a musical about Charles Darwin working out the theory of evolution in the Galapagos islands (Galapagos! The Musical), a Shakespearean rendition of Rocky III (Rocky the Third), a showcase of standup comics (New Order), an improvised Broadway musical (Spontaneous Broadway), a musical/sketch one-woman show about climate change anxiety (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Ham), a showcase of women standup comics (The Breast of the Fest), a showcase of standup comics (The 5:30 Show), a Hamilton-esque musical about the creation of the wool industry in Australia (Wool! A History of Australia’s Wool Industry: The Musical), a musical comedy act featuring two sisters (Flo & Joan), a standup routine about myths and truths and storytelling (Mythos), a showcase of standup comics doing political comedy (Festival Club, Political Tuesday), a showcase of standup comics (Five at Five (at Six)), and three solo standup shows: Geraldine Hickey, Becky Lucas, Guy Montgomery.

Guy Montgomery is a comedian from New Zealand who can most easily be found on the podcast The Worst Idea of All Time, on which he and his friend Tim Batt watch one terrible movie 52 times over the course of a year and discuss.

Guy’s MICF show is called I Was Part of the Problem Before We Were Talking About It, and it was a masterfully executed exploration of straight white male privilege, toxic masculinity, shame, and more—combining very funny standup with heartfelt storytelling. I don’t know if you’ve seen Nanette by Hannah Gadsby on Netflix (if not, go watch it), but I found myself comparing Guy’s show to that, which is high praise indeed. Considering my previous exposure to Guy via TWIOAT, I was very much surprised at the turn the show took. If you know any men in Melbourne, this show is a must-see.

I’ve skipped over a lot, including two other things that I did on Sunday and Monday. On Sunday, I went to see the M.C. Escher exhibit at the National Gallery of Victoria. On Monday, I met up with Al and Andy at Stupid Old Studios and recorded episode 177 of the show, featuring me as guest.

Andy Matthews, Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall, and me, their tall son.

And that’s a slice of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.